I’m a Canadian with an English dad and granny, and, yes, everyone is different. But I offer my experience as a guide. Growing up, my parents drank coffee in the morning and tea at night, as in after dinner, evening. My granny likes tea, always. I drink it at least once a day.
Tea requires a kettle, a teapot, a tea cosy, a mug, and maybe a spoon. Your kettle can be electric; I like a stovetop kettle because that’s what I grew up with. Pour any leftover water out every time you fill it. Boil as much water as the kettle holds. You’re going to want it.
Every British household has a bog-standard LARGE teapot, then maybe a few fun and fancy ones. You need a workhorse, but you also need something to show off for company. A big brown betty is nice, enough to hold more than a couple of cups of tea.
You must have a tea cosy or else your tea will go cold. A tea cosy is a quilted or knitted cover that goes over top of your pot. If you don’t have a grandmother who makes them, buy one at a craft fair from someone else’s grandmother.
Pour your tea into whatever mug you like. I only use cups with saucers at my granny’s house, and even then, that’s only if she’s serving biscuits. If you like your tea with sugar, you’re going to want a spoon to stir it. A saucer comes in handy here because then you have somewhere to put your dirty spoon.
When I’m making tea for me, I pour the milk directly from the carton in the fridge. But when serving tea for company in the living room, put the milk in a little jug. Always milk; never cream.
Just like Canadians always mean “ice hockey” when we say hockey, Brits always mean “black tea” when we say tea. We never mean green. We never mean peppermint.
I mean Tetley. Tetley has been my family’s brand of choice my entire life. We collected and sent away boxtops to collect tiny ceramic animal figures that I played with as a child. Tetley tea is sweet, but not sugary. It brews orangey brown.
Tea comes in boxes of bags, no strings or tags attached. Keep your tea in an airtight and solid container. Glass is no good because the light gets through.
It’s basically impossible to get regular black tea in the United States. I have relatives who travel with tea bags. I usually drink Earl Grey or green when I’m in the States. But you have to know that it’s not the same thing. Most of us see that as unnecessary fanciness when we just want a cuppa.
Yes, I drink other kinds of tea. In my cupboard right now, I have some fruit teas I like to drink iced, I have a loose tea blend that’s a little caramel-y, I have some sencha, some jasmine, and a box of Earl Grey. Sometimes I make a cup with loose tea in a tea ball hanging in a mug. But when I want tea, just a cup of tea, I make a pot of Tetley.
Wikipedia has a really good step-by-step description. This is pretty much how I do it. My granny is a stickler for warming the pot before you drop in the tea bag, but I learned from my Canadian mom, who never bothered. I do like to rinse my pot, though, because there’s almost always tea in there from the night before, so you might as well use hot tap water.
(A quick note here: don’t wash your teapot. Just rinse it whenever you use it, and you’ll be fine. You want a teapot to be seasoned like a good cast iron pan. Granted, I do wipe down the outside occasionally.)
- Boil the water. No need for a thermometer here. Just get it to a rolling boil.
- (optional) Swirl a bit of water in the empty pot to warm it.
- Toss in 1 or 2 tea bags, depending on the size of your pot. If you plan to drink more than one cup, go with two.
- Fill the teapot with water. Put the lid on. Put the tea cosy on top.
- Let it steep at least a minute. I like to pull the tea bags out before five minutes. Some people leave them in to the bitter end.
- Pour a bit of milk in your mug. Then pour the tea. Some people prefer tea first, then milk, to better judge the amount of milk required. I recognise this as a valid preference. But I’m a milk first person.
- (optional) Add sugar and stir to dissolve. I like milk first because you don’t have to stir if you don’t take sugar. Fewer dishes.
- Then drink and enjoy.
- Want another cup? Of course you do! That’s why I always make a pot of tea, even though I’m just one person.
No matter how big your mug is, you’ll always find yourself wanting another cup of tea. Too much milk? Balance it out with a bit more tea from the pot. Gone cold? Warm it up. That’s why you have a tea cosy. (Please don’t microwave tea. Just make another pot. It’s cheap.)
Tea isn’t coffee. It’s not the kind of thing you make in the morning just to be conscious. You don’t throw it in a mug as you’re headed out the door. It’s tradition and comfort, meant to be held in your hands for warmth. It’s why we make tea whenever something bad happens, whenever we feel sad, and even when we don’t know how to feel. A cup of tea makes us feel better.
And a person who knows the way we like it makes us feel loved.